The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.6

This entry is part 37 of 41 in the series Current

Issac let the charged Chaos Nova flare in his palm. He had no intention of killing Metal X, but it working in his favor to let the other man believe he would. From what he’d heard from his brother and seen on the news, Metal X was an unstable man and if he thought he had an opening, he could be incredibly dangerous.

So he kept his posture as efficient and cold as possible while striding forward. Once her got close enough, he could deliver a punch that would ring the other man’s bell long enough to cuff him.

Or at least that was the plan.

He’d just passed the hole Metal X had blown in the window, something green and purple flitted through his peripheral vision. Before he could react, a voice cackled out, “Hey, partner—duck and cover!”

An explosion caught Issac as he was turning around, hurling him bodily into the cavity where his boss’s aquarium had once been. Lucky he’d busted out all of the glass earlier, or he might have been seriously lacerated where his costume didn’t protect him.

At the same time, Woo had used the last of his nanites to form a pyramidal cocoon around him that diverted the force of Launch’s explosive take-off. The second the room stopped shaking, he shifted them into tendrils and sent them outside to seek the metal frames that contained the rubber and epoxy seals around the building’s windows. The colony rapidly assimilated the available metals and began transferring the new nanites back downstream to become new, thicker armor.

Without a frame to sit in, the seals and the windows they were attached to no longer had anything to hold them in and the pressure differential made them all fall out, tumbling toward the ground below. There were surely ROCIC agents and civilians in the path of those glass panes, but his focus was all on Issac.

His opponent had taken the brunt of Launch’s blast and was slow to get up from where he’d landed. Woo wasted no time creating a set of pincer claws to grab up his enemy in them and lifting him by his shoulders. Slowly, he started applying pressure with the claws, twisting the bones in his upper arms.

“Your brother fought better,” he spat, completely ignoring that moments earlier he’d been at the other man’s mercy.

Issac shook his head to clear it. “Say what?” The pain turned what he was saying into a nearly indecipherable grunt compounded by the sound of the wind outside beginning to howl, but still he soldiered on. “You don’t know anything about me and my brother. I give him a hard time, but the thing is, our powers are different.”

Shocked by his defiance, Woo paused in crushing his foe’s arms. “Why?” He leaned closer. “Tell me. Tell me all the secrets of his powers or I’ll rip your arms off.”

“O-okay…” Issac muttered, strained. “See, my brother’s better with air, and I’m better with water. He’s got raw power… And I’ve got finesse.” With that said, he caused the small rivulets of water he’d been sending into the clamps on his arms to expand violently, freeing him.

Ignoring the persistent burn in his forearms, he raised them, wringing all the standing water out of the office’s carpeting and bringing it up between him and Woo, slamming him with sledgehammer force. Reaching into the impromptu wall of water, he pulled out a pair of long, thin swords and launched himself forward, slashing at the clamps as Woo tried to defend himself.

“And enough focus that I can keep a lot going at once!” He feinted,t hen stepped back. When Woo lunged forward, he did so into a patch of compressed water that was just as slippery as ice. A dozen thin nanite-derived rods extended out to steady him, but that’s where Issac aimed, slashing them apart as soon as they emerged.

Woo turned the clamps into over-sized gauntlets and fended off the swords with the sheer thickness of the armored gloves before stepping into the next attack and connecting with a backhand slap that sent the unarmored descendant reeling.

That was all the opening he needed to lay into his opponent with a flurry of clumsy but powerful punches. Issac brought up his swords to ward off the attacks, but a hard blow to each ‘broke’ the water tension on the blades and thus Issac’s ability to keep them intact.

One last blow sent Issac stumbling back to the hole in the wall. He had to conjure up a pair of watery hook-swords to catch the edges of the break, catching himself leaning outside, buffeted by the powerful winds that had kicked up. He couldn’t help but looked down, seeing all one hundred plus feet between him and death as well as something that turned his fearful countenance into one of defiance.

Woo noticed none of this as he transformed one gauntlet into a pair of wrist-mounted blades. “Here it comes. Get a place ready for your brother in Hell.”

“Nope.” Issac let his water blades dissolve and allowed gravity to take over.

Surging through the shock at this turn on pure adrenaline, Woo lunged with his blades, missing Issac, but almost colliding with a black and red blur that exploded past him. Issac seemed to disappear, replaced by the glowing sphere of a Chaos Nova.

Chaos ignored the roaring explosion that blew Metal X back into the office as he gradually reduced his flight speed.

“Did you have to grab me under the arms? That metal-bending psycho bruised them but good,” Issac complained.

“Hey! I’m not the one that jumped out the window. I was going to be there to back you up in like five seconds—you even saw me! I saw you seeing me!”

Issac huffed. “Did you not notice the murder claws aimed at my chest?”

“Wouldn’t have been so scary if you knew how to actually fight and, y’know dodge? Or kept your D-icon on you.” Chaos shifted his grasp so he was holding his brother with just one arm across his chest. A moment later, he pressed the D-icon into Issac’s hand. “Speaking of which; I was late because I stopped by your place to grab this. Then I had to call up more or less a tornado to keep all that glass from falling on anyone.”

Activating the D-icon, Issac switched out his soaked and battered suit for his Turmoil costume and separated enough from Chaos to catch the wind with his cape. “Wouldn’t have wanted people to get slashed to pieces on my account. Besides, tat was one hell of a save, Chaos. Also: thanks.”

“Not problem,” Chaos nodded, “Now let’s finish off X and Launch so we can get back to HQ. I’m here with some of the kids from LA. In case you haven’t heard the news, the extended fam is in having a hard time right now.”

Turmoil flexed his hands and filled his palms with water, turning them both into maces. “How bad?”

“Bad. Alexis’s dad is MIA. They kidnapped Melissa’s little brother too and Cyn’s father and most of his goon squad got busted out of prison. And Kareem was missing for a bit too. We’re not sure what happened, but a group is out picking him up now. He was out with his girlfriend so…”

“Bad,” agreed Turmoil and he flourished his maces, “Now let’s beat some information out of X and his exploding buddy.”

And so the Smythe brothers dropped out of the sky intent on doing just that.

***

“Kareem?”

It was strange waking up after having not dreamed. Ever since his powers awakened, he couldn’t remember a day he hadn’t. Even those years existing barely tethered to his body on the astral plane, he’d still dozed, still dreamed despite being in a realm of nothing but dream-stuff.

So he barely even noticed to headache or the sense of foreboding silence that surrounded him at first. It was too off-putting to have gone from knowing and sensing nothing to awareness. That and the voice. He knew that voice and tried to move toward it. Some sort of static crawled through his veins, also familiar.

It was only then that the pain struck him; sharp and sudden like a whip-crack between the eyed. He felt his back arch and a groan escape him mouth. That was the best he was capable of.

“Is it safe to take this thing off? It looks like one of those psi dampers from Braddock Island.” Another voice; this one also familiar. Pressure released from his temples and crown and his normal waking world returned.

Thought.

Clouds of free-floating thought pinpointed the locations of three people in his sphere of influence and he knew all of them. Tension he hadn’t been aware of eased and whatever had been seizing his body up started to wick away as well, the static in his veins seeming to lend him strength enough to at least open his eyes.

Weary brown eyes met green ones more full of concern and terror than he’d ever seen in them. Hope quickly broke eye contact to reach into her medic’s belt and came up with a nutrition bar. “Try not to move until you’ve eaten this. Processing out the poison means I burned through your metabolism faster than usual.”

She gently reached behind his head and lifted it so she could feed the bar to him. Though he knew he was supposed to eat it slowly, he wolfed it down in three bites before asking, “What happened? Where’s Desiree?”

“You tell us.” Occult appeared in his view, kneeling by his knees. “We just got here and you were drugged with some kind of anti-psi device on your head.” She frowned in the depths of her hood. “And why did they just leave you here and take Desiree?” Then it hit her. “Wait—you haven’t heard?”

“They took—” he tried to sit up, but his head reprimanded him with a lance of agony, making him cringe. Hope put an arm around him to support him and keep him from collapsing again. More carefully, he asked, “What haven’t I heard?”

Hope let out a little sigh. “There was a fight with Anton Paralus and… Tink got her mask ripped off in front of a horde of civilians. It was all over the world in minutes and people started… speculating. Then Tome moved to attack our families.”

“We’ve been teleporting all over the country helping the ROCIC getting them to safety all day,” Occult added. Then, hesitantly, she added, “We haven’t been totally successful.”

“Who?”

He felt Hope tremble against him. “My brother.”

The pain that stabbed into him every time he moved did nothing to stop him from putting his arm around her in a weak hug that he could only pray was comforting. “I’m so sorry. W-we can…”

Hope just kept talking. “And Alexis’s father a-and just before we left Juniper called us. She tried to contact Malcolm when all this happened and couldn’t. She went over to his place and… she had to fly one of his roommates to the hospital. He’s gone too.”

She cut off when she felt Kareem go still.

“Malcolm and Desiree… they know about our families, but how would they know about them? They wouldn’t be in our files because we met them after escaping.”

“The mole Codex has been talking about since that Halloween party?” Occult suggested.

In a whoosh of air, Vamanos burst into the clearing. “It’s clear of Tome mooks. In fact it doesn’t look like there was a fight here at all.” She was talking at speed and only at that moment did she notice Kareem. “Oh, you’re awake! Are you okay? What the heck even went on here?”

“I don’t know,” Kareem admitted, “But we can’t just hang around here. Maybe I can help by scanning the city with the transponder array. And… and I need to see my parents.”

Hope pulled him down as he tried to struggle to his feet. “You need to eat more until you’re in any shape to move at all,” she instructed.

“There’s no time for that!” Kareem said loud enough to make his own head hurt more. “Lisa, just take us back. Leave my car; we can come back for it when there’s time.” He tried to get up again and this time something slid off his chest and fell into the leaves.

Occult picked it up and scrutinized it. “Desiree’s palmtop?” She didn’t know Kareem to be the kind of person to have a skin on his palmtop featuring Paris landmarks. “Why would Tome leave this on you?”

At the same time, Vamanos was asking, “Um… you bought your car up here? Your new car?”

It wasn’t exactly new; Kareem’s parents had gotten him a used economy convertible. It was the best they could afford on their salaries, but they’d seen one too many news reports on breakdowns (superhero-related or otherwise) on the commuter pod and train system and decided he needed one.

She rubbed the back of her head. “Yeah… the parking lot at the bottom of the trail is clear too?”

Weakly, Kareem patted himself down. “…My keys are gone.”

“This is making less and less sense,” said Occult. “Maybe we should teleport back as soon as possible to tell Codex and see if she can figure out what’s going on here.” She offered the palmtop to Kareem who gave it a long, hard look before putting it in his pocket with some difficulty.

He let Hope force another nutrition bar on him before trying to get up once more. This time he was more successful thanks in no small part to her help. “None of this makes any sense at all. Tome has known who we are and who our families are since the very beginning. There is a reason the ROCIC has a rapid-response unit on standby within a few minutes’ flight of every major family member of ours. And yet, they have never acted. Why hold off until our identities are compromised?”

“And I’ve been public this whole time,” Vamanos chimed in. “Sure Lily’s fielded a few death threats against me, but no one’s actually come after me until now.”

Kareem nodded slowly. “In fact, our becoming public is bad for them. They want us alive for their bio-mapping process. Our other enemies would have no such compunctions and then Tome would have nothing. No, this is a precision move; hitting us at a time we would already be panicked and scattered. It’s a smoke screen… but for what?”

***

The street intersecting with the private drive up to Freeland House was clogged with news vans, each with reporters and A/V techs all staked out to catch whatever members of the Descendants might blunder into their view.

One or two or even five more didn’t make much of a difference. Seeded in among the actual news reporters were a number of wolves in sheet’s clothing. Given the nature of the Moreau Corps, that was actually quite literal.

But unlike any squads save the ones that attacked Issac Smythe’s place of work, these were accompanied by actual powered elites.

In one van, Tome’s two most reluctant recruits watched feeds from the cameras on top of the vans and satellite feeds as remote command centers filled their comms with routes and tactics for the coming operation. Both were men in their early twenties; one who kept his face and head obscured despite his tactical gear leaving a scaly, clawed hand and a pair of leathery wings visible; the other who didn’t seem bothered leaving bear his hear of spiked frost where hair should have been or the shifting plates of ice covering his pale bluish skin. He’d been far worse until Tome offered him a course of drugs to control it.

The first, code-named Beowulf, shook his head. “I hate this. There people have done nothing but good and it’s our job to ruin their lives for it?” He looked to hi counterpart, “Have you heard the story of how this all started? The Descendants wouldn’t even exist if Tome hadn’t push them together. Now they’re trying to take hostages to get ’em back?”

“But you’re still doing it.” The other man didn’t look up, but the guilt was still written on his frozen face.

“I’ve got to. For a cure… for my sister, wherever she is. They’ve got wore than gun to my head.”

The ice man nodded absently. “Same. I stop taking hits of my meds and I’ll go completely Ice-9 on about a mile of real estate. Not gonna say I’m not afraid to die… but I’d feel a lot worse taking people with me, so…”

“You can’t just move to the country?”

“That Van-dyke wearing asshole Talbot said he’d personally tranq me and leave me in a kindergarten.”

“I hate these pricks,” replied Beowulf.

“Same,” said Shiver as he closed his eyes and waited to fight for a cause that wasn’t his own.

***

“They’re about to initiate the attack now,” a voice informed over a comm.

“Excellent.” The Orb Weaver leaned forward in his seat, fingers interlaced as he watched a bank of monitors. “Knock, Knock, Laurel.”

End Descendants #100

To Be Continued in Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House…

Series Navigation<< The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.5Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.1 >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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One Comment

  1. Typos

    it working in
    it worked in

    feinted, t hen
    feinted, then

    noticed to headache
    noticed the headache

    you bought your
    you brought your

    wolves in sheet’s
    wolves in sheep’s

    hadn’t push them
    hadn’t pushed them

    got wore then
    got worse than

    bear his hear
    bare his head

    Van-dyke
    Van Dyke

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